We’ve recently returned from a fabulous first trip to Orlando and as so many of you have helped with answering my questions and posting reviews and opinions on everything Orlando, I thought I’d write a review of our holiday to share with you - apologies for the length!
We are a family of four, myself, DH, DS1 (age 11) and DS2 (age 8). DH & I were both 40 last month and our holiday was partly our present to each other.
Day 1 – arrival
Flew with Thomsons from B’ham to Sanford. Check-in a nightmare, girl on the desk didn’t seem to have a clue what she was doing, eventually requested the help of the person on the desk next to her, she couldn’t help either so called over her supervisor. No one told us what the problem was but we got a bit concerned when they started rummaging through the bin to find luggage labels!! When my husband asked what the problem was and expressed our concern about our luggage arriving safely, we were met with the surliest attitude from the supervisor, who tutted and muttered as she walked away from us! Not the best of starts!
Arrived at Sanford, miracle of miracles so did our luggage, straight out to Alamo, picked up our Ford Escape (no pressure from Alamo to buy extras) & off we went. Arrived at Staybridge Suites on International Drive, location excellent, check-in fine, hotel fine, 2 bed/2 bathroom suite fine – basic but very spacious & clean.
Went for a wonder, ended up at TGI’s for dinner, food was great and waiter was very helpful and friendly.
Day 2 – IOA
Body clock woke us all up about 4:30am so got up & ready for breakfast at 6:30 and left for IOA. Got there about ½ hour before opening and headed straight to WWOHP and FJ. WOOOOOW!!!! What a ride!! First ride of the holiday and the BEST ride of the entire trip! It absolutely blew me away, loved it although DH suffers from motion sickness and he spent the rest of the morning feeling very nauseous!! The whole WWOHP was amazing, and the attention to detail incredible. DS1 & I did Dragon Challenge, loved it and we all did Flight of the Hippogriff. Also did Spiderman, Hulk (DS2 not quite tall enough), Cat in the Hat, Dudley Do-Rights, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (got absolutely DRENCHED on these two rides, but loved them, great fun!), Jurassic Park and Posideon’s Fury. Crowds – hardly any at all, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Dinner at the Hard Rock Café – great shrimp fajitas, good cocktails and cool memorabilia. All into our rock music so was always going to be a good place for us!
Day 3 – Magic Kingdom
Up and out early again. AMAZED at the Disney road system!! Its just so big! Seeing Cinderella’s Castle is such an awesome sight when you first walk into the park, certainly has that Disney effect on you! Headed straight for Space Mountain and loved it, though different to the one in DLP. Did Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilarMagic (brilliant) and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (loved it!). Low crowds again, great day.
Headed back to I-drive & had dinner at Tony Roma’s – great food, great staff. DS2 started to flag and fell asleep at the table!
Day 4 – Aquatica
We decided not to do more than 2 consecutive days in theme parks whilst planning and it worked out well as we had a bit of a breather, but great fun nevertheless at Aquatica. Kids loved all the water slides had a fab time.
Left mid-afternoon, back to shower & change then went to the Outta Control Dinner Show at Wonderworks. Loved Tony Brent’s sense of humour and the show was great, enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Food was better than I’d expected, decent pizza and salad was fine and most importantly, the wine was good! Would definitely recommend it, a great evening. After the show we whizzed round Wonderworks and back to the hotel.
Day 5 – Universal Studios
Another early start but getting progressively later as the days went by! Again, we all did most attractions; Disaster!, ET, Jaws, MiB, Shrek, Simpsons (so much fun!), Twister, Beetlejuice show, and DH & DS1 did RRR and Mummy. DS2 loves rollercoasters but was just a bit too short for RRR and really doesn’t like anything spooky and no way was he going to be persuaded on to the Mummy ride so DS2 had to go on twice so that DH & I could both go on it. Fantastic ride, really really good.
Dinner at Bubba Gump in CityWalk – mmmmm!!! I love seafood and loved this place! Had the Shrimpers Heaven and it was delicious but so much of it!
Day 6 – Disney HS
DS2s big day – his very first upside down rollercoaster!! Headed straight to R’n’R and although he really wanted to do it, he was sooooo nervous!! But he did it and LOVED it! It was also my first time on it as DH & DS1 had rode it in DLP. Fantastic, loved everything about it but the start is brilliant, I love how you’re blasted off!! All went on again at the end of the day! Park was busier than the others had been and had to queue for approx. 1hr for Toy Story Mania, great fun ride though so we didn’t mind. Also did Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppet Vision & Studio Backlot tour.
Left earlier today for our ADR at Chef Mickey’s. Wasn’t sure if boys would be that interested in the characters this time as they’re getting older and it might not be ‘cool’ but DS1 (almost 12) went to get some food and promptly returned without any. When I asked why he hadn’t got any he said “because Donald is on his way round”!!! It was so funny, and they both loved the characters and they all ruffled DS1s long shaggy hair and made a fuss of them both. Really glad we did it as I don’t think Donald will have the same appeal next time we go! Food was great too.
Day 7 – KSC
Had really hoped to see the shuttle launch while we were in FL, but when we found out that it had been postponed, we booked onto the KSC Here & Now tour. It was great, drove out to within a mile of the launch pad and saw Endeavour on the pad. Our guide was great and we got a great view of it. Felt very sad that the shuttle program was coming to an end and seeing the other pads structures being dismantled was a sad sight so felt very privileged to see Endeavour stood proudly on her pad. Really good day and nice to get away from the parks for a day. LOADS to see there and could easily have gone back for a second day.
Ate dinner at TGIs again and went for their special offer of 3 courses for $16 or so. Food great again but surely its not humanly possible to eat all 3 courses?!!
Day 8 – Discovery Cove
Couldn’t decide whether or not to book DC for a long time but so glad we did. The whole day was fantastic and its such a beautiful place. The dolphin swim was so memorable, seeing our kids’ faces as they were towed along by Cindy the dolphin will be a memory we’ll treasure forever. The dolphins were beautiful and we all loved every second of our interaction with them. Another really special moment was snorkeling round the tropical reef with DS2. He was really quite afraid to begin with and didn’t want to venture away from the rocks, partly due to the size of the sting rays in there (they were huge!!) and partly because he could see how deep it was! With much encouragement, we held hands and snorkeled around the reef together for ages and he loved it and was so pleased to have done it.
PM we went to Universal Studios for Mardi Gras. We were feeling the pace a little at this point and considered giving it a miss but our whole holiday ethos was ‘we’re here, lets make the most of it’ so we went! It was great fun, fab atmosphere and can’t believe how much we got into trying to catch those beads!! Watched the Beach Boys after and again, great atmos and watching the Beach Boys on stage in Florida on a warm evening after a hot sunny day was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Day 9 – This and That Day!
I suppose you could call this our rest day, although there was no lounging around going on! Headed up to the Premium Outlets at the top of I-drive, wandered the shops for a few hours and spent a few dollars. 10 pairs of trainers, 2 pairs of sunglasses and god knows how many items of clothing later we headed back to hotel to dump our gear and headed off to DTD for our early ADR at Planet Hollywood. Shrimp fajitas again, good but not as good as those at Hard Rock. Had a great time though and always enjoy looking round the memorabilia.
Had a mooch around DTD after then back to I-drive for a game of crazy golf at Pirates Cove. Great fun, really difficult holes (& that was the ‘easy’ course!) but of course, I lost!
Day 10 – Blizzard Beach
We all really enjoyed the water parks & Blizzard Beach was no exception. There was NO way I was going to give into pressure & go on Summit Plummet but the others did including DS2 who was by far the youngest person I saw to hurtle down that ridiculously high slope! OMG, crazy slide!
Dinner back on I-drive at Bahama Breeze, mmmm….those coconut shrimp were so good!
Day 11 – Epcot
Parks definitely getting busier now with Easter approaching but still managed to do everything we’d wanted to – Test Track (great ride), Soarin’ (huge long boring line and have to say was a little disappointed, still glad we did it though & would do it again), Turtle Talk with Crush (loved that!!), Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land (interesting) Maelstrom, wandered around all the countries (again, the attention to detail is wonderful) and of course we did Mission:SPACE! I love simulator rides & I never get motion sickness so DS1 & I did the intense ride while DH & DS2 did the lighter one. OMG it really was intense! I felt like my head was going to explode and felt quite nauseous at one point & found myself looking round for a panic button! It was brilliant though and once past that initial bit, it was amazing, loved it.
Dinner at Via Napoli in Italy, good food & lovely waiter. Watched fireworks & lasers on way out.
Day 12 – Animal Kingdom
Wow, I loved this park, my favourite of all Disney parks by far, just so beautiful. Headed straight for Expedition Everest and got our fast passes then did the Kilimanjaro Safari which we all really enjoyed. Did It's Tough to be a Bug which I thought was the best of these kind of shows we'd seen, and the Tree of Life was stunning. Went back to Expedition Everest and loved it, though have to say I was a bit nervous about it breaking down at the top and us having to walk down as had happened to someone on TA (sorry can't remember who it was). Fortunately, it didn't breakdown and we promptly started rolling backwards! Fab ride, DSs loved it. Did the Maharajah Jungle Trek, Conservation Station and kids had a bit of time in the Boneyard. Went on DINOSAUR and I was the only one who knew what to expect thanks to TA! They all thought it was going to be a little kiddie ride and we're quite surprised! Great ride. Finished with the Kali River Rapids which was a big mistake as I was wearing denim shorts and I got soaked!
Left feeling very soggy for our dinner reservation at T-Rex Cafe DTD. We're all big fans of Rainforest Cafe so were really looking forward to T-Rex cafe and it didn't disappoint. Fantastic inside with lots of stuff to look at. Only issue was our server was very slow.
Day 13 - Typhoon Lagoon
We had left the last couple of days free to go back to a favourite park or do something we had missed and after a very hot & tiring day at AK yesterday we opted for a shorter day in another water park as these had been a real hit with DSs. OMG, never seen a wave pool like it!! Just amazing how powerful those waves are! Did several of the slides and did lots of floating around the lazy river.
Left mid-afternoon, showered, changed & went for dinner at Bahama Breeze. Lovely, mmmm....those coconut shrimps were soooo good! After dinner, went to MK for Electrical Parade, The Magic, The Memories & You! & the fireworks. Have never seen The Magic, The Memories & You before and was absolutely blown away by it, amazing & stunning effects and made me quite emotional! Fireworks were beautiful and seeing Tinkerbell fly down from the castle was amazing. So late on in such a busy holiday, we could easily have missed this out but we were all so glad we did it, it is amazing no matter what your age or gender!
Day 14 - US & IOA
Our last full day so we went back to our favourite parks - IOA & US. Did all our favourite rides again and although it was much more busy than when we'd been the week before, we still managed to do everything we wanted to and more. One bizarre thing that happened was we bumped into a family we know from our DSs karate academy in the queue for the Simpsons ride!! Small world!
Dinner at Tony Roma’s and had one of the best meals of the holiday. DS1 had his first ever adult steak to himself & ate the lot! Hmmm...can see eating out with him becoming a whole lot more expensive!
Day 15 - Home - or so we thought!
Had breakfast & finished off our packing and checked out, very sad to be leaving. Arrived at Sanford to be told that we had a 24hr delay due to the bird strike that had happened a few days before. We were taken by coach to the Westin hotel in Lake Mary where we were very well looked after & fed. Hotel was lovely and the manager & staff excellent. Had a wander around the nearby bars & shops and went to the cinema in the evening to see Rio! It was great, only problem was all our luggage had been checked in so we only had hand luggage with us.
Day 16 - Home!
Coaches collected us from the Westin at midday and we headed back to Sanford, this time to return home :-(
In all, we had a fantastic holiday and have absolutely got the bug!! We did so much in our 2 weeks but there's so much more we want to do so are planning to go back in 2 years time, adding Busch Gardens, a day or two at the beach, Seaworld etc to our list. We loved everything about it from the parks, to the weather and the wonderful friendly people and I can see why people go back time and time again!
Big thanks to everyone who contributes on here and helps first timers like us plan and enjoy such a fantastic holiday :-)